We love root vegetables, so easy to handle and always delicious. Usually we roast a variety of them with minimum effort – some olive oil, salt and pepper and they result in a tray of shimmering rainbow. That’s a typical western version of handling root vegetables. The Chinese homes usually serve it as an accompaniment to a main ingredient in soups or stir fried. The Japanese however, take much effort in making sure the full flavours are represented. This pumpkin is a good example, although the dish was meant to be eaten as a side ( pardon the quantity we made it looks like we made a lot,hmmm actually we did, one large plate 😬😬😬. Like I’ve said, we do love our root vegetables) yet the dish receives as much attention to detail as a main dish. Not that it require that much effort, just sufficient for the flavours to burst through those golden bars.
1/2 a kabocha or japanese pumpkin
1 piece of kombu, about a postcard size
1 tablespoon mirin
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
In a small saucepan add kombu to 4 cups of water. Slowly bring to boil. This will make a simple dashi stock.
Meanwhile, wash the kabocha thoroughly, scoop away the seeds but leave the skin on. The skin serves to hold the flesh and adds texture to this dish. Cut the kabocha into chunks. Arrange them skin-side down in a medium pot, preferably in 1 layer.
Combine the mirin, sugar and soy sauce in a bowl. Add one cup of the freshly made dashi stock and stir to dissolve the sugar. Pour the mixture over the kabocha chunks in the medium pot. Add another cup of dashi, or two cups, just to cover the kabocha.
Bring to boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until a fork can pierce into it, tender but not mushy. Adjust the taste of the simmering broth if necessary. Turn off the heat and let it stand lid closed for 30 minutes. The kabocha will continue to cook and absorb flavours while it cools in the pot (so do not overcook it before turning off the heat).
Serve the dish either slightly warm or at room temperature. Garnish with spring onions if you wish.
Note:Buy a nice and ripe kabocha (get those that are already cut into half, it’s easier to see if they are nice!). Because of the simplicity of the ingredients, careful execution is required and achieving the correct texture is of utmost importance.
Save the left over dashi for another use, such as making tamagoyaki (see the sushi post)